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    Meet The Corporation

    Corporations are endowed with what amounts to the power of
    personhood. But while corporations are treated like humans before
    the law, they’re sorely lacking in humanity. Instead, businesses
    act like pathological individuals who often fare much better in
    legal proceedings than their human counterparts would in similar
    situations.
    Writing
    in Sierra, Chris Warren explains
    how corporate-reform
    and -accountability activists are working to equalize this power
    disparity.

    As Sierra Club Corporate Accountability Committee member Jim
    Price tells Warren, ‘We’ve given corporations more power than we
    reserve for ourselves.’ Like human citizens, corporations can
    contribute to political campaigns and sway elections. But unlike
    people, chartered corporations are immortal, as charters never
    expire. Shareholders and corporate directors are protected by
    ‘limited liability’ laws that exempt them from certain
    responsibilities should the company make mistakes or fail.
    Corporate law has established that corporations should serve the
    interests of stockholders, but these interests often conflict with
    the best interest of the public and the environment.

    Corporate-accountability and -reform activists Robert Hinkley
    and Richard Grossman are working to expose unbridled corporate
    power and the dearth of corporate morality. While Grossman educates
    the public about corporate rights, Hinkley uncovers their
    irresponsible actions and preaches the radical notion that
    corporations should be responsible to people, communities, and the
    environment.

    Concerned citizens and legislators across the country are
    heeding Grossman and Hinkley’s calls to action. They’re trying to
    inject values into corporate armatures and outlaw certain behavior
    and, in some cases, corporations themselves. A group of individuals
    in rural Pennsylvania, spurred by the threat of mountains of manure
    from corporate hog farms contaminating their drinking water, banded
    together to outlaw corporate farms in their communities. Arcata,
    California, has had a law on the books since 1998 that prohibits
    fast-food franchises from opening new locations in the city. Arcata
    also passed a resolution that acknowledges the citizens’ belief
    that corporations are not people and should not have the same
    rights as them. Representatives in California, Maine, and Minnesota
    have penned state bills that seek to make corporations more
    accountable to the public and the environment.

    While those seeking to change corporate values in the United
    States may have far to go, the European Union is heading down the
    highway toward corporate responsibility. The EU has set in place
    extensive environmental regulations and review processes for
    manufacturers. Warren hopes such measures, along with the ideas of
    activists like Hinkley and Grossman, may lead the US and other
    countries down the path toward corporate responsibility.
    Rose Miller

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    Meet
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    Published on Sep 1, 2005

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